Judgment

My judgment questions are many.  I am interested in whether there are percepts without concepts.  You might say that is the Kantian question at its core. When we perceive something, are we also, simultaneously, “categorizing” it? Linda Zerilli and Suzanne Langer (and Nelson Goodman? and Brian Massumi?), among the people I have been reading recently, seem to take the Kantian view. Odd in Langer and Goodman’s cases because they are so interested in music, which is usually taken as an instance of non-conceptual perception. But Langer (at least) wants to claim their are non-discursive, non-representational concepts (or symbols).

Part of my problem is that I don’t really see what’s at stake. And I also don’t see how one would determine what is actually the case. I see twelve different shades of blue and can distinguish between them. I can certainly identify them all as instances of “color,” and even as shades of “blue.” But I haven’t got any clear designations for the twelve different shades even I as can see–and even recall–the distinctions among them. Something similar holds for tastes, where the general terms of “sweet,” “bitter,” and the like are obviously inadequate to the subtleties I can perceptually register. But: so what? What follows of significance in relation to anything we want to know about?

So that’s one puzzle. Another is that the term “judgment” gets used to cover a multiple of gaps in various accounts of cognition. Discussions of judgment tend to veer from judgment as 1)determinate in Kant’s sense: that is a tree; 2) indeterminate in Kant’s third critique sense; 3) assessments (is that a good tree or a good novel)–Michael Clune is interested in that kind of judgment; and 4) assessments of what it is possible and/or good to do in these circumstances (phronesis)–which then runs into distinctions between individual judgments and collective (democratic?) judgments. 

In cases, 2 and 4, the imagination tends to get invoked.  In cases, 3 and 4 (at least) judgment seems to entail questions of value.  So I feel like there’s a swamp there I am getting sucked into.

And all this is doesn’t even get to things like moral judgments or legal judgments.

Or to Arendt’s attempt to turn judgment into a way that the sensus communis gets enacted and reinforced, thus maintaining a common world. Her basic idea, I think, is this: we as a community discuss whether a Picasso painting is beautiful or sublime or some other set of more nuanced terms. The discussion establishes from the start the existence of that painting as an object in our common world. We are connected by our shared focus on that same thing. And then as the discussion proceeds, certain adjectives (qualities) of that thing also get held in common–that it depicts a guitar, that its style is Cubist, that it stands in contrast to more “realistic” kinds of painting–as elements of general (if not unanimous) agreement. There will still be plenty of things for us to disagree with and differing interpretations of the painting and differing judgments of whether one likes it or finds it significant etc. But we will be held together by the things we do agree on, the world that (in Arendt’s terms) exists between us, bringing us into relation with one another. Our actions both shift our relations to the others with whom we share a world–and contribute to that world’s “reality,” it persistence over time as the “in-between” which we occupy with others.

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